Friday, July 31, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright copper urn 1898

This copper urn was a favourite of Frank Lloyd Wrights. He designed the first one in 1898, but produced only a few examples between that date and 1909. They were created originally to sit within some of Wrights early and specifically designed interiors such as the Dana house, the Coonley house, the Edward C Walter house, Browne's Bookstore and even Wrights own home.

Wright commissioned James A Miller, a Chicago sheet metal worker, to construct the urns, and although a number of them had small variations, they basically followed a set design by Wright, with the circle within a square format being an important element of the design.

This particular piece has a warm patinated look and feel to it, and would have sat quite comfortable within Wrights largely naturally inspired interiors, which were often dominated by wood, stone and metal.

The urn did function as a semi-practical interior accessory, as it was meant to hold prairie grass or some other form of natural and specifically native plant. This was part of Wrights ideas about the inside and outside of a dwelling being both interchangeable, or at least able to be interactive with each other. His philosophy shares the same basic principles as that of the American Arts & Crafts movement, and Wright can fairly be said to be strongly associated with both the movement and its ideals, despite the fact that he did produce work that was very much part of his own individual style.

The urn is a prime example of the standard achieved by metalwork professionals and sometimes amateurs, at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Copper work in particular has probably never been bettered and it is interesting to see how many architects and interior designers felt the need to include copper specifically within an interior. However, on a broader scale, brass and wrought iron work were also popularly included within turn of the century interiors and were often very much considered to be an integral part of the building itself, rather than just as an accessory.

Likewise, Wrights copper urn should not be seen as an interesting and individual metalwork accessory, but as an integral part of a specifically designed building. The urn was deeply associated with that building and lost much of its purpose and function when it was removed from its natural landscape and setting.

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